It was August of 2011 when a conversation about years of balancing part-time university teaching with professional fund-raising and an acting career made Beth Becka realize something had to change. A friend asked Becka what she had dreamed about in her 20s.
“I wanted to have a conservatory,” she answered—“a two-year arts conservatory.”
Even then she thought, Right, I’m 56 and I’m going to start this whole new thing? I should be thinking about retirement.
Within a week, Susan Tolar Walters of STW Talent Agency asked Becka to start teaching acting classes again. “I taught for her when she had The Actor’s Workshop,” Becka recalls of the school located in downtown Wilmington for most of the ‘90s. “She said ‘Beth, I need you to start teaching. I have actors that need training.’”
Things were starting to turn over in Becka’s mind. She thought maybe the conservatory could be a possibility; then, the loans convinced her. Entrepreneurs can only hope to be surrounded by supportive people who will offer a shoulder to lean on and encouragement when needed. Still, a real business venture needs start-up capital. In Becka’s case it was a vote of support that couldn’t be ignored.
“Two friends each loaned me $4,000 to start the school with five years to re-pay it—and the loan would be erased if I didn’t make it.” Becka takes a deep breath and looks me directly in the eyes to make sure I understand the intensity of what she said.
In November of 2011 Insight School of Acting (ISA) opened with two teachers and 14 students. Less than two years later ISA has received a tremendous honor from Larry Silverberg of the True Acting Institute, a nationally recognized instructor of the Sanford Meisner Thechnique. Silverberg invited ISA to become a “Sister School” to the True Acting Institute, one of only four in the United States, and joined the faculty of ISA.
“Beth Becka has created a center for the craft of acting in Wilmington that is founded on the spirit of generosity, integrity and truth,” Silverberg observed. “Insight is quickly becoming the premier institution for the training of actors in the mid-Atlantic region, and I am so proud to become a member of Beth’s team!”
The Meisner Technique developed the behavioral aspect of Stanislavski’s system for acting. It focuses on performers being present in the moment to find truth in their work. Stanislavski and his acolytes developed “method acting” or the use of sense memory and motivation in acting. Sanford Meisner built upon that work to focus on acting that was more truthful and in-the-moment reactions, rather than planned responses to the script. Many famous actors have studied Meisner Technique, including Diane Keaton, Grace Kelly, James Caan and James Franco, to name but a few.
Silverberg studied directly with Meisner and has published many books on the technique, most notably the four-volume “The Sanford Meisner Approach Workbook” series. Besides the recognition that Silverberg brings to ISA, it also makes Insight the only professional Meisner Training Program in the region. The next master class with Silverberg at ISA will be August 24th through the 26th.
Though clearly pleased with this jewel in her crown, Becka remains grounded by the work which made it all possible. In less than two years ISA has grown from a faculty of two to eight, which, besides herself and Silverberg, includes Nick Basta, Nichole Farmer, Mark Jeffrey Miller, Steve Vernon, Anthony Reynolds and Michael Rosander.
Classes are capped at 10 students to preserve individual attention but also to make sure that the core material and messages of the school can’t get lost in the shuffle. “So often, when I have taught acting or improv classes, they have been stand-alone situations. The class was not tied to any other class or philosophy,” Steve Vernon notes. “At ISA, when I am holding an improv class, the goal is to synthesize what the students have learned in their other classes and apply that knowledge to what we are doing—and, hopefully, the inverse is true as well.”
Vernon says the underlying philosophy of ISA is utilized in all of the courses taught. It creates a sense of cohesion and also makes for a comprehensive approach to learning.
Mark Miller, teacher of voice-over work and “Level V Acting” observes how “there is a fine balance in playing something that is not inherently you without losing the essence of who you are.” He further explains:
“I am neither a murderer nor an English sea captain, but if I have been cast as one, what do I do? This is where the solid techniques one has learned in class are applied. There is only one you and that is what will make a performance memorable. I can still be a murdering English sea captain and bring my unique personality to the role.”
Michael Rosander, a stage magician with No Sleeves Magic, regularly teaches beginning and intermediate kids’ classes. The first session of Fun With Film, a summer camp, had teenagers lining the waiting-room walls, nervous yet excited at sign-up. Rosander’s infectious good energy filled the space and thawed their pubescent angst. With Rosander’s gentle help and contagious sense of fun, they wrote, cast, directed and performed in a film titled “Payback,” which has been entered into the Cucalorus Film Festival Youth Film category for the November festival.
Rosander points out the skills they learn at ISA can be applied to many avenues of life, regardless of whether the children go on to act professionally. “It makes you a sharper observer of the human condition and a better listener,” he says. “It can also make you more relaxed in social exchanges. If taught with care and insight, it can give you the enduring quality of humility.”
In five years, Becka hopes to be running an accredited equivalent masters program at ISA. “But I’m not sure that’s what it needs to be,” she muses. If anything, the last year and half has shown that being in the moment and truly listening—the pillars of the skills she tries to teach—can make miracles happen.
Insight School of Acting
3201 Randall Pkwy #3